UK Men's Basketball

Loss to Cards shows what Cats need to fix

Limit turnovers. Get the ball to Patrick Patterson. Use defense to create transition offense. Get back on defense to limit the chances the opponent gets to avoid a set half-court defense.

Those objectives loomed large in Kentucky's loss at Louisville on Sunday and figure to be keys to the success UK enjoys in Southeastern Conference play.

In terms of pace, Kentucky seems to be of two minds: the faster the better when the Cats have the ball; a half-court game when the opponent tries to score.

UK Coach Billy Gillispie cited transition defense as the big factor in the loss to Louis ville. When a caller to his weekly radio show Monday night noted that U of L had only five fast-break points, Gillispie begged to differ.

"The breakdowns in transition defense, that was the biggest disappointment to me," Gillispie said before adding a few moments later, "Our transition defense was atrocious."

Louisville officially had 24 points off turnovers. Surely more than a few came on the fast break.

Gillispie lamented the number of times a Louisville player got into the lane in transition, forcing UK's defense to react, and then passing to an open three-point shooter. The Cards made 11 three-point baskets. Only VMI's 14 in the opening game tops that this season by a Kentucky opponent.

"We didn't get the ball stopped in transition," Gillispie said. "They got in the lane way too much."

The more the Cats stop transition play, the more the opponent must operate against Kentucky's strength: its half-court defense.

Opponents are shooting only 37.3 percent against Kentucky. That ranks 12th-best nationally.

The Cats credited defense for their rally against Louisville. U of L scored only one basket in the final 9:04 until Edgar Sosa hit the game-winner with 2.8 seconds left.

Asked how Kentucky rallied, Jodie Meeks said, "We started pressuring them. They started turning the ball over and throwing up contested shots. We got them playing like we wanted."

Against the SEC, Kentucky will want even more effective defense.

"I wish we'd do it all the time, me included," guard Michael Porter said of the defense. "When we do that, it's easier to score."

Kentucky needs easier scores so Patterson and Meeks do not have to do seemingly all of the scoring.

The pair accounted for 50 of UK's 71 points at Louisville, and 16 of the 22 free-throw attempts.

"It's not a burden," Meeks said. "It's what we have to do sometimes. If that's what it takes to win, I'm all for it."

On the plus side, Kentucky looks for Patterson. "The Kentucky kids know exactly where their bread is buttered," U of L Coach Rick Pitino said.

But Porter acknowledged the need for more diversity.

"We need guys to help them out a little bit," he said. "They can't be our only scorers."

On his radio show, Gillispie spoke of freshman Darius Miller as a third scorer.

"I keep waiting for Darius to be that guy," Gillispie said when asked about more scoring from the small forward position. "I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't bust out in conference play. I'd be surprised if it didn't happen very quickly."

Gillispie noted a flaw in Miller's shooting form. The freshman doesn't bend his knees enough, thus he leaves shots short, the UK coach said.

Miller has made four of 20 three-point attempts and is shooting 33.3 percent overall.

Once he gets more of his legs into shots, he'll be "one of the best players I've ever coached," Gillispie said.

Kentucky players dismissed the notion that the heartbreaking loss to an archrival might inflict psychological damage.

Instead, they spoke of resilience.

When asked what the Cats learned from the loss, Patterson said, "This is a tough team. Bottom line, we are a tough team. We're able to fight."

Tickets available

A limited number of single-game tickets remain for Kentucky's Jan. 21 game against Auburn. Fans may order tickets by calling the UK Ticket Office at (800) 928-2287 or the Rupp Arena Box Office at (859) 233-3535, or by going to UKathletics.com or Ticketmaster.com.

The Wildcats' Southeastern Conference opener on Saturday against Vanderbilt has been sold out.

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