Like gamblers looking for a big score, Kentucky will go to Las Vegas looking to hit the jackpot, perception wise.
After dispatching of outmanned Longwood Monday night, the Cats talked about how they can strike it rich by beating two "name" opponents in Las Vegas.
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"It will give us a chance to redeem ourselves," Jodie Meeks said.
Kentucky plays Kansas State on Friday, then either West Virginia or Iowa on Saturday. UK hopes two victories change the perception of a team that lost to Virginia Military Institute in its opener and then got blown out at North Carolina.
"I don't think that was our real team last week against North Carolina," Meeks said. "We just had a bad game. We'll get another chance to show what we can do and show what this team is made of."
Guard saga continues
UK's ongoing point guard saga continued with new developments to ponder. Michael Porter didn't shoot well (1-for-5 and 1-for-3 from three-point range), but he had only one turnover in 20 minutes against a quick opponent that wanted to apply pressure.
Freshman DeAndre Liggins committed four turnovers in 19 minutes.
UK Coach Billy Gillispie didn't seem in the mood to talk about the point guards, but he did not like Liggins' 0-for-3 free-throw shooting.
To miss free throws means "you can't play in the final three minutes," the UK coach said.
Then Gillispie turned to Liggins' three first-half turnovers. "He has to do a better job playing with his teammates," Gillispie said. "It's not selfish play. He's trying to make a play. He doesn't always have to make a play. Those are freshman mistakes.
"From where he was 10 days ago to now, from where Michael was 10 days ago to now, they're improving by leaps and bounds on a daily basis."
Gillispie substituted early and often. His first move came 35 seconds after tip-off when he replaced Porter with Liggins.
Gillispie linked the many moves to practice earlier in the day. "One of the hardest practices we've ever had," he said. "We went about as physical as you can for about 50 minutes."
Besides fatigue, Gillispie cited one other factor that sounded like impatience with mistakes.
"If you're not getting the job done, we're going to make a change," he said. "Unfortunately, that's how this team might have to be motivated."
Gillispie noted that "the best motivator is the bench," and he showed he's willing to use it.
One of Longwood's four starting guards, Dana Smith, has family ties to Kentucky. His parents are from Winchester.
"I used to come here every summer for basketball camp, so I've had my tours of Rupp Arena," said Smith, who scored 18 points. "It felt good to play here because my family was here, and I had a lot of support."
Longwood Coach Mike Gillian saluted Smith's grittiness to overcome torn ACLs and meniscus in each knee earlier in his career.
Kentucky will have to win in Las Vegas without radio play-by-play man Tom Leach.
Leach will call the UK football team's game at Tennessee on Saturday. His backup, Neil Price, will call the UK basketball games in Las Vegas.
Price calls UK baseball and women's basketball games.
Longwood's Ryan Bogan had six three-pointers. The Rupp Arena record for a UK opponent is seven, set by LSU's Chris Jackson in 1990, Georgia's D.A. Layne in 1999, Penn State's Joe Crispin in 2000 and two Tennessee guns, Vincent Yarbrough in 2002 and Chris Lofton in 2006. ... Josh Harrellson had his first double-digit scoring game with 12 points. ... Perry Stevenson had a career-high four assists.