UK Men's Basketball

Harris' 'steady' hand guides Cats

Earlier in his athletic career, Kentucky glue-guy Ramon Harris had broken his nose twice and a foot once. He'd been taken off the court on a stretcher as a high school player.

That medical history seemed insignificant next to the memory of his nasty head-to-head collision with teammate Michael Porter in the Lamar game on Dec. 3.

"Oh man, it was the worst pain I ever felt," Harris said after UK beat Vanderbilt on Saturday. "... The worst pain ever.

"It's a blessing to be able to play basketball again."

Harris contributed mightily to UK's victory. He scored 12 points, marking the fifth double-digit total of his career, made all five field-goal attempts (two from three-point range), equaled a team-high seven rebounds and equaled a team-high three assists.

"If I'm not mistaken, wasn't he a McDonald's All-American?" Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings said.

Actually, Harris was not. He frowned when told of Stallings' comment and wondered if the Vandy coach confused him with another Alaska native, Mario Chalmers.

"He played well today," Stallings said. "He hurt us. He sure did."

Barely more than a month ago, Harris lay on the Rupp Arena floor and realized he had no feeling in his toes and fingers. After being taken to the hospital, he became aware he had no feeling in his arms and legs.

"Oh, it's scary," he said, "especially the next day when you wake up and the doctors are checking, 'Can you feel this? Can you feel that?' "

The good wishes of family (UK family and his personal family) and friends helped Harris endure.

What got him going against Vandy, he said, was a three-pointer (his first since the Lamar game) from the left corner. It tied the score, erasing Vandy's last lead.

"You don't expect a guy to be perfect," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said of Harris' 5-for-5 shooting. "But I do expect him to make shots and make plays and defend. I thought he did.

"He's just a constant guy. He's constant and steady."

Meeks tired?

Going into the game, no active Southeastern Conference player averaged more minutes than Jodie Meeks' 32.8 per game.

Surely, no league player shoulders a larger responsibility. Gillispie noted how UK looks for Meeks to score against defenses designed to stop him and to defend the opposition's top perimeter threat.

"To play with the amount of energy Jodie is expending over a 40-minute period, I mean, that's almost impossible," Gillispie said. "... Unbelievable energy."

Meeks, who played 37 minutes against Vandy, acknowledged the difficulty of his role.

"It's tough," he said. "But that's what I have to do. I have a lot of responsibility on this team. I never shy away from that at all."

When asked about duplicating Ramel Bradley's marathon man role last season, Meeks smiled and said, "I hope so."

After going through the frustration of an injury-filled 2007-08, Meeks welcomes the chance to play.

"It's much better on the court than off the court," he said.

Stallings and the ref

A curious blocking call on Joe Duffy, who fell back as the driving DeAndre Liggins made contact, contributed to the Commodores' collapse early in the second half. Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings, who was crouching in front of his bench, fell backward onto his backside in a gesture of disbelief.

That began a running exchange between referee Ted Valentine (angry looks) and Stallings (bemused smile).

No Ogilvy

Vandy's all-SEC center and leading scorer A.J. Ogilvy sat out the game after aggravating a heel bruise during Friday's practice.

"I'm very disappointed," Ogilvy said as he left Vandy's locker room.

When asked how Ogilvy's absence affected the game, Stallings gave a pointed response.

"We didn't score very many points inside," the Vandy coach said, "and A.J. is our best low-post scorer. That's not to say the game would have been any different (with Ogilvy playing)."

Tennessee pressure

Next up for Kentucky is Tennessee, the pre-season favorite in the SEC and a team noted for applying defensive pressure and creating a chaotic game.

"It's just a matter of playing smart, handling the ball and rebounding," Michael Porter said. "If we do those things, we have a good chance of winning."

When asked if UK is beyond questions abut handling pressure now, Porter said, "I never thought about it. I always knew what I could do and we already knew what we could do."

Etc.

Steve Ehrhart, executive director of the Liberty Bowl, formally presented UK football coach Rich Brooks with the championship trophy at halftime. UK beat East Carolina 25-19 in the Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2. . . . Although sloppy down the stretch, Kentucky made six of six free throws in the final 67 seconds to win. Porter made four straight. Meeks made two to complete an 8-for-8 game at the line. He's made 29 of his last 30 free throws.

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