UK Men's Basketball

Defense will be steam behind a UK roll

After his team beat Indiana on Saturday, Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie suggested the victory might cause a tsunami-sized ripple effect.

"I think we're getting ready for a steamroll," he said after UK won 72-54.

The upcoming schedule accommodates a steamroll. Kentucky's next four opponents Appalachian State, Tennessee State, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan set up like peanuts waiting to be crunched. Their combined record is 14-18, and the average Ratings Percentage Index of the four is 256, according to Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com.

Appalachian State, which faces the Cats in Louisville on Saturday, had the best RPI: 200.

UK big man Patrick Patterson acknowledged the competition might contribute to a steamroll. But he also noted that Kentucky's defense would be the steam in any roll.

"I just feel like if we continue to play like that on defense, we can steamroll over a bunch of opponents," he said.

Against Indiana, especially in the first half, Kentucky played the kind of defense that Gillispie spoke about when he first came to Lexington. The Cats not only took the initiative but also shoved it down IU's collective throat.

The Hoosiers, who set up as a perfect foil given their turnover problems and a starting lineup that included three freshmen, scored two points in the game's first seven minutes and didn't crack double figures until 6:11 remained in the first half.

Gillispie called the first-half defense that limited Indiana to 23.1 percent shooting accuracy (6-for-26), four assists and 15 turnovers "about as good as it gets."

He has lauded the defense, especially in the half-court setting, much of the season. Even the lopsided loss at North Carolina included long stretches when the Tar Heels had to work for points when Kentucky prevented fast-break opportunities.

The victory over Indiana featured the most effective Kentucky defense of the season. Patterson suggested that effectiveness caused Gillispie to think about future victories.

"Maybe glimpses of what we can become," Patterson said. "(Gillispie) was pretty happy with the effort."

Like all teams, Kentucky has improving to do. Gillispie pointed out the continuing need to reduce turnovers (23 against Indiana, which brought the season average to 20.5 a game). "We started to get a little soft with the ball," he said after the Indiana game.

The Cats also need to be more efficient in converting the opposition's turnovers into transition points.

Meanwhile, to hear the talk last week, UK fans can enjoy watching the improvement as the Cats pile up one-sided victories.

When asked about Gillispie's steamroll comment, Perry Stevenson said, "We're revving our engines. It can't do anything but go up from here. We're working hard in practice, and Coach is acknowledging that. And we're feeling good about ourselves."

Stevenson offered an opinion on what Kentucky's steam-rolling machine will be like.

"A well-oiled one, I guess," he said. "We'll see what happens."

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